In a 5–4 decision on Tuesday, the Supreme Court affirmed that states have the right to prosecute illegal immigrants who are caught providing fraudulent Social Security numbers in an attempt to gain employment, the Washington Examiner reported.
The narrow ruling was opposed by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor, according to the Examiner.
A matter left to the states?
The case at issue, based out of Kansas, involved a trio of illegal aliens who were accused of providing false information on work forms, the Wall Street Journal reported. One of the alleged aliens, Ramiro Garcia, was arrested in 2012 for using someone else’s Social Security number, according to the Examiner.
While Garcia was initially found guilty, his conviction was later thrown out by the Kansas state Supreme Court on the grounds that state prosecutors can’t legally pursue cases involving identity fraud by illegal immigrants; it’s a federal issue, the defense argued.
The state later appealed the decision. According to Reuters:
Though immigration-related employment fraud is a federal matter, Kansas contended that its prosecutions were not immigration-related and did not conflict with federal immigration law. Kansas had argued that a ruling in favor of the immigrants would undermine its ability to combat the growing problem of identity theft.
“Kansas was backed by the Trump administration and 12 states in arguing that it can prosecute because the same information also appears on state work forms,” according to the Examiner.
Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito defended the high court’s decision in favor of Kansas state prosecutors. “In the present cases, there is certainly no suggestion that the Kansas prosecutions frustrated any federal interests,” Alito wrote, according to the Examiner.
However, the court’s more liberal-leaning justices disagreed with that assessment. In a dissent, Justice Breyer argued that the law “reserves to the federal government — and thus takes from the states — the power to prosecute people for misrepresenting material information in an effort to convince their employer that they are authorized to work in this country,” according to the Examiner.
Cracking down on identity theft
But it’s understandable that state justice officials would want to crack down on identity fraud — and a 2009 study from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) suggested that “illegal immigration and high levels of identity theft go hand-in-hand.”
“States with the most illegal immigration also have high levels of job-related identity theft,” the CIS reported. “Children are prime targets.”
But kids aren’t the only ones. Disabled Army veteran James Di Napoli discovered firsthand how destructive identity theft can be after he discovered that his father had sold his Social Security number to illegal aliens.
A 2018 article from the Daily Caller News Foundation detailed how the sudden jump in Di Napoli’s reported income made him ineligible for the financial aid that he had been receiving for college. To make matters worse, Di Napoli later learned that he would be required to repay the funds that he had already received. The new financial obligations and damage to his credit resulted in Di Napoli being left homeless.
Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) attempted to assist with Di Napoli’s case in 2012, but the identity thieves were living in California, and the state’s then-attorney general, Kamala Harris, wasn’t very helpful, according to the Daily Caller. Her office sent a generic letter telling him to report the fraud to the Social Security Administration and “consult with a private attorney.”
But thanks to this Supreme Court ruling, states now know they are free to go after the offenders directly, helping them keep Americans — and their wallets — safe from harm.